saving money when you travel
With peak travel season fast approaching, now is a great time to start thinking about how to minimize vacation expenses while maximizing opportunities.
Transportation accounts for the bulk of a vacation’s price tag, but beyond the plane ticket, travel experts say there are a number of small adjustments you can make to cut costs.
Here are six ways to get the most out of your trip without breaking the bank, even when traveling abroad:
1. Know how you’ll pay for things before you get there
If you’re traveling outside the U.S., call your bank and credit card company before you leave. Not only will that prevent fraud alerts and freezes to your accounts, but you’ll learn about any potential fees you might incur and can plan ahead.
For your debit card:
Most ATMs charge a $3 to $7 fee per transaction and confirm that you agree to the charge before processing your withdrawal. But many banks charge an international fee too, which you won’t be alerted to at the kiosk. Consider opening an account with a bank that waives international fees, or at the very least, avoid making multiple withdrawals.
For your credit card:
“Foreign exchange fees are the banks’ and credit card companies’ dirty little secret,” says entrepreneur and frequent traveler Richard Moross. “If you travel regularly, you need a better solution for card and cash payments.”
Consider applying for a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Avoid cash advances, for which you’ll be hit with high transaction and interest fees, at all costs.
If you’re going to exchange money upon arrival, travel blogger and best-selling author Matthew Kepnes says don’t do it at the airport.
“The rates you see at airports are the worst. Never, ever use an exchange bureau there unless you absolutely have to,” Kepnes writes on his blog.
You can avoid exchange fees altogether by using your debit card and withdrawing cash from an ATM.
2. Pack medicines you don’t think you’ll need
Ibuprofen, vitamins, cough drops and allergy medications are often overpriced at airports and convenience stores in tourist areas.
To avoid the headache of paying double or triple the regular price, pack a small bag of medication you may need and keep it in your carry-on, writes travel blogger Caroline Eubanks on “Her Packing List.”
She recommends keeping prescription medication in its pharmaceutical bottle with the original label. Prescription liquid medications are not subject to TSA restrictions, according to the administration’s website, but be sure to follow the extra steps to avoid any unforeseen issues.
3. Avoid dynamic currency conversion
Some businesses will offer to perform your transaction in U.S. dollars. Sounds smart, right? It isn’t, says Nick Ewen, who writes on for the credit card blog “The Points Guy.”
This “courtesy” is called dynamic currency conversion and will could up costing you an additional 5 percent, charges that will add up.
4. Pack an empty water bottle and a few snacks
A full water bottle won’t make it past airport security, but an empty one is no problem. Once you’re past security, use a water fountain to fill your bottle so you have something to drink while you travel. It will save you $3 or $4 every time you’re thirsty and would otherwise buy a drink.
Having a handful of granola bars, an apple or a bag of chips will also save you from overpaying for snacks.
5. Text and make calls while using Wifi where possible
Texting and calling abroad can easily add up, so turn off cellular data whenever possible. Some carriers charge 50 cents for each text sent when overseas and 20 cents per text received. (Take a look at your most recent group text message and you’ll see why avoiding these charges is important.)
Check in with your cell phone carrier about international text and calling charges before you leave so you know what additional costs might apply.
FaceTime audio, Skype calling, WhatsApp and Facebook Messager are a few great ways to avoid costly additional charges. Using public WiFi comes with risks, so explore ways to protect your data.
6. Wear layers
No matter where you’re traveling, wearing layers is always a smart idea, and can end up saving you money.
By wearing a T-shirt or tank top underneath your clothing, you’ll be spared the temptation to buy clothing from a gift shop if you’re too warm. And by having a long-sleeved shirt or sweater, you’ll avoid shelling out for an in-flight blanket if you’re cold.
Beyond saving money while traveling, some savvy globetrotters have learned how to earn it. Check out the 32-year-old who quit a comfortable job and established a steady source of income while traveling abroad.